Game Time 2012 NHL Draft Preview, Part One

Last week during "Prospect Sunday," we made our annual look back at the Blues' recent NHL Entry Draft history in an attempt to identify any trends or patterns that could be used to predict who the Blues might be targeting in the draft this year.

We found that the Blues have, over the last decade, tended to focus on players coming from North America, in contradiction of the general assumption that the Blues are a club that will look to Europe first for talent. 50 of the Blues' 86 total selections in the last ten Entry Drafts have been either Canadians (30) or Americans (20), with Swedes being third on the list (12).

Thirty of the Blues' 86 selections from 2002 to 2011 have been players from the three major junior leagues -- the Ontario, Quebec, and Western Leagues. 14 players have come to the Blues from the 'Dub in the last ten drafts, more than from any other single league. Nine of the Blues' recent draftees are OHL players, and seven came from the QMJHL.

The following chart illustrates the breakdown of which leagues are providing players to the Blues through the Entry Draft. The data shown include the ranking, the league name, number of players chosen from that league, and the year that the last player was selected by the Blues from that league.

Rank League # Plyrs Last Rank League # Plyrs Last
1. WHL 14 2011 15. CZE Jr 2 2004
2. OHL 9 2011 16. OPJHL 1 2008
3. QMJHL 7 2011 17. Midwest Elite 1 2007
4. SWE Jr 5 2011 18. MA HiSch 1 2006
5. RSL / KHL 5 2010 19. Swiss 1 2006
6. USHL 5 2010 20. NAHL 1 2005
7. Allsvenskan 5 2008 21. VHL (RUS 2) 1 2004
8. MN HiSch 4 2010 22. Belarus 1 2003
9. US NTDP 4 2008 23. ECAC 1 2003
10. CZE Extraliga 3 2011 24. WCHA 1 2003
11. FIN SM-Liiga 3 2011 25. HEA 1 2002
12. SWE Elitserien 3 2009 26. SJHL 1 2002
13. MHL (RUS Jr) 3 2003 27. SVK 2 1 2002
14. FIN Jr 2 2010 TOTAL 86

In the last ten NHL Entry Drafts, the Blues have selected (in descending order) 24 defensemen, 17 right wings, 16 centers, 14 players listed as "forwards," 9 goaltenders, and 6 left wings. The average player selected by the Blues has been 6' 01.40" in height and weighs in at 196.4 pounds.

Of the 86 players selected by the Blues from 2002 to 2011, 37 players are no longer considered "prospects," meaning that in most cases, the Blues have cut ties with them. 14 players, including newly-signed 2010 draftee Vladimir Tarasenko, are considered NHL players for either the Blues or another organization, and 20 players (including 2010 draftee Jaden Schwartz) are considered AHL players for either the Blues or another organization.

15 of 86 players, with the oldest being 2007 selection Max Tardy of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, are still considered "prospects" outside of the North American professional level.

After the jump, a look at a few players that your "Game Time" Prospect Department feels are, or should be, prime targets for the Blues in the first round of the 2012 Entry Draft.

Radar2On The Radar header

IF THE BLUES TRADE UP:

There has been speculation in the Blues' fanbase about using some of the team's depth on the wings to acquire a higher first-round pick... either an additional pick somewhere in the 15-24 range without packaging the Blues' pick at 25th overall, or using the 25th pick along with other picks and/or players to trade up closer to the top ten.

In the former instance, a "trade proposal" has been making the rounds at "Hockey's Future" whereby the Blues would trade Chris Stewart to Pittsburgh in exchange for the Pens' pick at 22nd overall and prospect defenseman Scott Harrington (Pittsburgh's 2nd pick, 54th overall, in 2011). The Blues would probably have to add something to that deal, a late pick or prospect, but this deal would fill a hole on Pittsburgh's roster (a winger for the Crosby line) without impacting the Blues' 2012-13 NHL roster too greatly. It would also give the Blues two additional highly-regarded prospects, Harrington and whoever they would choose at 22nd overall.

Alternatively, there is also the possibility that, should a deal of that kind be made, the Blues would take their own first-round pick plus the acquired pick and try to trade up into the 10-15 range. Harrington would still be a fine acquisition for the Blues all by himself in that instance; regarded as one of the best defensive defensemen in major junior, the 6' 1, 195-pound Harrington put up a solid 3-23-26 scoring line (plus-26, 32 PM) in 44 games for the OHL champion London Knights this year, and was also outstanding in the OHL playoffs (19 GP, 1-6-7, plus-11, 6 PM) as well as in the U20 World Junior Championships for bronze medalist Team Canada (5 GP, 1-3-4, plus-7, 0 PM) along with Blues' prospect Jaden Schwartz.

Washington, with picks at 11th (from Colorado) and 16th overall, is one of the teams with whom the Blues could do business at the draft table. Tampa (10th and Detroit's 19th pick) and Buffalo (12th and Nashville's 21st pick) also have extra picks in the first round this year, and could be getting a call from Doug Armstrong on draft day.

If the Blues are able to swing a deal that gets them into the 10-15 range, the player I would be targeting with that pick if I was at the Blues' draft table would be Latvian import centerman Zemgus Girgensons of the USHL's Dubuque (IA) Fighting Saints.

Girgensons BW Zemgus GIRGENSONS ISS Report Card
Position Center Size/Strength Very Good
Shoots Left Skating Good
Height 6' 01.50" Puck Skills Good
Weight 198 lbs Shot Good
Born Jan. 5, 1994 Hockey Sense Very Good
Where Riga, Latvia
CSS Final 18th N America 2011-12 Club GP GL AS PTS +/- PIM PP SH GW
Intl Sct Svcs 24th Overall R/S Dubuque (USHL) 49 24 31 55 +17 69 5 0 6
Hockey News 16th Overall P/O Dubuque (USHL) 2 2 2 4 + 2 0 0 0 1
SCOUTING REPORT
Strengths: Leadership abilities; consistently a positive force; plays with intensity. Weaknesses: Lacks explosiveness in his skating, could really help his draft stock. Skill: Plays and hits hard in all three areas of the ice and will take the body whenever the opportunity exists. A developing power forward, Girgensons is a joy to watch. He plays the game with passion and energy and seems to embrace every aspect of it. Girgensons is a good skater with soft hands and very good offensive capabilities. His physical play is excellent and he made sure to throw some big hits for the scouts and fans during the round robin play. The sky is the limit for Girgensons' potential and it will be exciting to see how he develops as he earns his way onto teams with better players for him to play with. Girgensons was only able to muster 2 goals in 6 U-18 WJC tournament games, but he was consistently the most visible Latvian player in every game. Committed to the University of Vermont 2012-13 (Verbal). NHL Potential: Top 6 - potential two-way center.
STYLE COMPARES TO: Shane Doan (PHX)

THE SKINNY:

Girgensons has already completed three years of competition in North America, crossing the pond in 2009-10 to skate for the Green Mountain (VT) Glades of the Eastern Junior League before joining the Fighting Saints for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. International Scouting Service scouts compare him to Phoenix captain Shane Doan, and Girgensons does display a lot of the same leadership qualities and intensity that Doan brings to the ice.

Girgensons has also drawn comparisons to former Blues' first-round pick Rod Brind'Amour for his playing style and for his commitment to physical fitness and muscular development.

He is considered close to NHL-ready now, and has committed to Vermont of the ECAC for next season. The Blues can stash him in the ECAC for a couple of seasons and let him develop there, and then should the window of opportunity open after Girgensons' sophomore year, he can be signed early, as Jaden Schwartz was earlier this year.

IF THE BLUES STAND PAT:

In the event that the Blues are unable to trade up and draft Girgensons -- whom we feel will be long gone by the time the Blues select at 25th overall -- there are still several players who are likely to still be on the board at 25th, any of whom would be solid picks for the Blues near the end of the first round. Following are capsules of three of these players.

Hertl BW Tomas HERTL ISS Report Card
Position Center Size/Strength Very Good
Shoots Left Skating Average
Height 6' 02.00" Puck Skills Very Good
Weight 198 lbs Shot Very Good
Born Nov. 12, 1993 Hockey Sense Very Good
Where Prague, Czech Rep.
CSS Final 5th Europe 2011-12 Club GP GL AS PTS +/- PIM PP SH GW
Intl Sct Svcs 32nd Overall R/S Slavia (CZE Ex) 38 12 13 25 + 9 22 3 1 0
Hockey News 24th Overall P/O Slovan Ustecti (CZE 2) 3 2 0 2 0 2 0 0 0
SCOUTING REPORT
Strengths: Excellent offensive instincts; vision with puck; quick hands. Weaknesses: Lacks explosiveness in his skating, needs work defensively. Skill: He demonstrated great puck protection, patience, vision and passing ability. Arguably the best prospect in the Czech Extraleague, has excellent offensive instincts. Hertl continues to surprise and impress scouts with his play. This year’s WJC was no different. Hertl tied for the team scoring lead putting up 5 points in 6 tournament games and his play outshined that of fellow first time NHL draft eligible prospect, Radek Faksa. Hertl has good height and size, moves well, has very good hands and a good shot that comes with a quick release. Hertl chases pucks into corners and shows a willingness to battle when need be. He shows maturity and unselfishness in his game and has displayed some strong technical development over the past 10 months. Winner of Extraliga Rookie of the year award. NHL Potential: Crafty winger with offensive skills to play in a top-six role.
STYLE COMPARES TO: Luke Adam (BUF)

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Kerdiles BW Nicolas KERDILES ISS Report Card
Position Center Size/Strength Good
Shoots Left Skating Good
Height 6' 01.50" Puck Skills Very Good
Weight 200 lbs Shot Very Good
Born Jan. 11, 1994 Hockey Sense Very Good
Where Irvine, California
CSS Final 29th N America 2011-12 Club GP GL AS PTS +/- PIM PP SH GW
Intl Sct Svcs 15th Overall R/S US NTDP U-18 54 22 26 48 0 38 7 0 4
Hockey News 33rd Overall P/O DNP 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
SCOUTING REPORT
Strengths: Natural goal scorer; has a nose for the net; “big game” player; ultimate competitor. Weaknesses: Has to continue working on his all-around game, needs to bring more consistency. Skill: A very opportunistic offensive player, Kerdiles identifies open shooting lanes well. One of the purest goal scorers in the draft. A long-time ISS favorite despite other scouts who weren’t sold on Kerdiles as an elite offensive prospect. Kerdiles proved us right with another breakout performance at World U-18. He led the US team in offensive production en route to the gold medal. A quick skater with great puck focus, Kerdiles is a dangerous shooter with pinpoint accuracy. He can seem to disappear for portions of the game, but consistently jumps back onto the radar with a bang. He has good reactions around the puck and is a threat off the rush, during zone play or in scrambles. Came back after a big open ice hit from Matt Dumba and scored OT winner at U-17 tournament. NHL Potential: Top 6 forward - Knack for elevating his play in big games.
STYLE COMPARES TO: James Neal (PIT)

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Sissons BW Colton SISSONS ISS Report Card
Position Center Size/Strength Good
Shoots Right Skating Good
Height 6' 01.00" Puck Skills Good
Weight 189 lbs Shot Good
Born Nov. 5, 1993 Hockey Sense Excellent
Where Vancouver, BC
CSS Final 14th N America 2011-12 Club GP GL AS PTS +/- PIM PP SH GW
Intl Sct Svcs 25th Overall R/S Kelowna (WHL) 58 26 15 41 -14 62 13 2 4
Hockey News 40th Overall P/O Kelowna (WHL) 4 1 1 2 - 7 2 0 0 0
SCOUTING REPORT
Strengths: Leadership abilities; full ice commitment; competitive work ethic; underrated goal scoring. Weaknesses: Further offensive consistency and skating agility. Skill: Smart and determined two-way player with developing offensive capabilities. A very interesting prospect, Sissons showed excellent development over the season and has really matured into the kind of prospect that keeps getting better. One of the most improved players in the entire WHL. An effective and productive two- way forward, always on the right side of the puck. Sissons defensive play is commendable. He is a gritty two-way player who can shutdown, block shots but also chase down opponents with his good linear speed. Offensively, Sissons is still underrated. He has a good shot, crashes the net well and can find good open ice away from the puck. He is not going to create much offense on his own, but you can be sure that he will be there when you need him to be. NHL Potential: Secondary goal scoring and crucial defensive situations.
STYLE COMPARES TO: Ryan Callahan (NYR)

Next week in "Prospect Sunday," more in-depth looks at players who are secondary options for the first-round selection if the above players are all off the board, and the "Silver Seven" targeted players for each round.

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